Take Charge

Federal Funding Lowest for Gynecological Cancers

March 27, 2018

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By Sara Bondell

When it comes to money for cancer research, not all cancers are funded equally.

Data presented at this year’s Society of Gynecologic Oncology meeting shows that gynecologic cancers are being shortchanged when it comes to federal funding for medical research.

Researchers ranked 13 common cancers by the financial support they receive from the National Cancer Institute, as determined by federal spending per years of life lost. Ovarian, endometrial and uterine cancers landed near the bottom both individually and collectively. Prostate and breast cancers ranked at the top of the list.

Ovarian cancer received average funding of $85,000 per years of life lost for every 100 new cases, researchers found. Prostate cancer, by comparison, tallied $1.15 million in funding per years of life lost.

"The disparity in funding for women’s cancers is a great concern for many of us devoted to caring for these women and trying to discover better treatments," said Dr. Robert Wenham, chair of Gynecologic Oncology at Moffitt Cancer Center.

Wenham said he was heartened by the substantial gain in survival times for ovarian and cervical cancer, but “it leaves me thinking about what we could have accomplished if better and equal funding for our cancers existed.”

One obstacle is that gynecological oncology has fewer patient advocates. While many prostate and breast cancer patients survive and become champions for funding campaigns, most women with ovarian cancer have shorter survival rates and spend much of that time battling the disease.

The researchers used funding statistics for the years 2007 to 2014, but noted that overall federal funding of cancer research proposals is on the decline.

"While we are grateful that funding continues from pharmaceutical companies to find new therapies, a number of important questions cannot and will not be addressed without government and foundation support," said Wenham.

"I hope that on behalf of one’s self, mother, sister, daughter, friend or neighbor that more voices will insist on better funding for gynecologic cancers."